10 Steps to Using Grids for Sketching (on Lunch Break)

As I’ve said elsewhere on the blog, I believe designers should draw as often as possible. One of the best exercises, time-tested over hundreds of years of fine art tradition, is copying the Masters. But can you do this on lunch break? Sure—with a little help from a grid!

Grids aren’t just for layout you know. They were used for painting long before they were used for page layout. Try this for a few lunch break sessions and you’ll be a master-sketcher of the Masters in no time.

How to sketch a copy of a Master painting on lunch break

Without getting into philosophy, here are the details and the example:

  1. Get an image of a painting you like and paste it into Photoshop
  2. Crop the image to the detail you want to work on
  3. Add a grid to the image using this tutorial: How to create a grid quickly and easily with Photoshop. Be sure not to make the grid too small. My example is a 3 x 3 grid, of a roughly 300px x 300px image.
  4. Leave the image up on your computer screen
  5. Create a grid with the same number of squares in your sketchbook
  6. Squint and lightly pencil in the main lines and angles
  7. Rinse, wash, repeat until you have it blocked out. Move around from block to block and don’t sweat the details
  8. When you have enough blocked in, start sweating some details, in layers
  9. Progressively add more tone to the sketch until lunch break is over
  10. Don’t over work it, but repeat at lunch tomorrow

Here are a couple of shots of the fruit of my labor, 30-45 mins, having followed those exact steps. Click to enlarge. Enjoy!

The orignal 300 x 300 image I cropped:

P.S. Yes, his ring finger is a little odd :)


  1. says

    Yes I use a grid too. I’ve have always used it for the simple fact that it gives more accuracy in my drawings. There is a step you’re missing though. All grids break down into more grids for accuracy.

    I can tell you now that this drawing is not as accurate as you wanted it to be, but that this drawing could have been better if you had made those big squares into more squares.

    Look at the top center square, the middle center square, and especially the middle right square. If you have a trained eye, you can easily recognize that they aren’t perfectly proportioned. That’s why you would use more grids though. More grids equal more accuracy.

  2. says

    @51 Oh, I absolutely agree with you. I naturally break it down more with my eye. Actually, I used an “invisible” grid of 4 x 4 inside of each of the 3 x 3 cells. Since the drawing was only 3 x 3 inches (one inch squares) I stayed a bit broad and eyeballed the sub sections of 4 x 4. Yes, it’s quite easy to increase accuracy with smaller squares. The middle right square is the “weakest” as it has the most complex organic shapes in it, and it was just eyeballed.

    For my next sketch, I’ll add more grid lines for roughly the same size image and see how it goes. Grids are really quite amazing!


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